The Burden of Protection
Is it the victim’s responsibility to take preventative measures to protect themselves against gun violence?
By: Abbi Kiesau
In light of the recent events in Pittsburgh, a question our nation never seems to find an answer to has resurfaced. We have seen this time and time again in various situations; an act of violence occurs, we have the same debate, and then the news fades away after the standard “thoughts and prayers” we send to the communities affected. When it comes to the people in power, the government officials who can make a difference, the question never seems to be about gun control, or about how we continuously fail to protect the innocent people of our nation, but about this question: what could the victim have done to prevent this? We have continuously failed, yet to many of us, real change still seems elusive. We have to ask ourselves: do we care about the root of this problem, or simply about accepting that this type of violence can and will occur regardless of gun reform?
On October 27, an anti-Semitic shooter killed 11 in a Pittsburgh Synagogue. Soon after, Donald Trumpdid what he does best and insisted that gun control has little to do with the situation. Instead, he posed hypothetical outcomes for the duration of his speech. Had the synagogue had an armed guard, the death toll would have been lower, they would have been able to stop him, and “maybe” there would have been no one killed except for the shooter himself. The systematic dismissal of the victims and the measures that should be taken to prevent these crimes continuously belittles victims and ignores the heart of the problem while prompting the idea that, in essence, ordinary people should always be taking preventative measures to stop things like this from happening. This implies the burden of protection lies in the hands of the everyday people to anticipate these events instead of looking at the root of how these things can happen in the first place and how they can truly be prevented on a national level. How is someone (literally almost anyone) able to obtain a firearm, go somewhere like a place of worship, a school, a movie theater, and open fire on other human beings? Where does the problem lie in our society that can lead to this? In what world is the best we can do to prevent mass shootings is having armed guards? The American Psychological Association released their annual “Stress in America” survey in which they reported that 69% of Americans are concerned about the future of our country and 75% of young adults and teenagers are worried about mass shootings. These are issues that dominate our headlines, and while gun violence has not affected most Americans directly, the reality of this happening is present in our day to day lives.
I believe the burden of protection exists at a much higher level than the individual victim. It is not the responsibility of potential victims to anticipate crime and protect themselves. The responsibility is on our society, on our government, to prevent these things from happening. Only by changing our policies to reflect prevention rather than reaction will we become safer as a society. There are multiple levels of institutional change necessary in order to see these desired outcomes. We need to fund research on gun violence, have Congress pass legislation that will reform gun laws, and do so in a way that will not impede on the Second Amendment. And that’s just for starters. The United States gun homicide rate is astronomically high in comparison to other countries that have stricter gun laws like the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, and Germany. If we learn from our mistakes and examine successful gun laws, we can consider policy change that will give us a chance at actually preventing violence rather than react to it.
I think it is arguable that there is a whole host of potential places gun violence can come from, and we can debate about who is responsible when this kind of violence occurs, but we cannot continue to blame the victims for the acts committed against them. Instead of having an armed guard at every public establishment, consider not giving perpetrators the power and weapons to fuel their hate crimes in the first place. We consider ourselves privileged in America to have these rights to freedom, and we are, yet we are letting people take them away from others. My thoughts are with the communities and all those affected every day by the burden of being a victim to hatred. We can, and we must, do better.